By Sarah Kingon
It was the awkwardly exciting evening of December 20th, 2012. I was on a first date with a guy who I had been ‘just friends’ with for a long time. So long, that I had only recently thought of him as more than a friend. I was 19 and Nick was 17, an equally awkward age gap aggravated by the fact that he was about to enter his matric year and I was heading for my second year of university. Neither of us had acknowledged that it was a date, but we both kind of knew. There were more than just butterflies fluttering in my tummy, while struggling to make conversation with the nervously smiling chap sitting in front of me. I knew he would ask me to be his girlfriend sooner or later, but I needed it to be sooner because his matric dance was coming up – not that he had taken notice of that.
He stammered out some words about how he had liked me for a long time and I had never noticed. It was funny to see a usually confident and cool guy stammer. After a few incoherent comments that were clearly leading to the inevitable, I asked him straight, “Are you asking me out?” He laughed and said yes. But being the person I am, I followed this with, “Do you have a date for your matric dance?” And he said he would love it if I could accompany him.
You see, the problem with this scenario was not that I was using him to get a free matric dance ticket when I was already two years too old for that (although that was slightly problematic), but rather that I was obsessed with wanting to go to another matric dance. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked this guy. But it was conveniently coincidental that he had the ticket that I so desired.
It’s difficult for me to explain why I wanted to do it again. I had already been to two dances by this time. The first was my own in April 2010, the other was that of my boyfriend at the time, which happened in August 2010. They had both been happy days of dressing up and seeing my friends dressed up and all the rest. But I wanted another one, like a greedy kid after eating two chocolates. I wanted another pretty dress, another stroll down the red carpet, another glance at other dresses, another time of pampering and feeling like a princess.
The date of Nick’s dance was April 14th, 2012. Plenty time to prepare. For the last two dances, I had bought my dresses. The dress for my own dance had been bought on a day devoted to matric dance dress shopping in Port Elizabeth, since East London had nothing I liked. The second dress was from Truworths. I had convinced my mother to buy it for me after refusing to commit the ultimate act of social suicide – wearing a dress twice. Truworths was only a step up from that. But it didn’t matter all that much because I knew no one at the dance and I liked the dress anyway. This time, I desperately wanted to get a dress made from scratch, a bit of a big ask when it’s two years after my big day. But I agreed to pay for it myself this time.
I had seen the dress when I was watching Glee, my favourite series at the time, with a friend one afternoon. Quinn, my favourite character on the show walked down the stairs on her prom night wearing what I can only describe as the ultimate Cinderella dress. Beautiful baby blue, with shimmering stones covering the sweetheart neckline, and flowing chiffon from the waist down. I loved it so much that I forced my best friend to re-watch that episode with me at least three times over. I was clearly the right mental age to be going to a matric dance.
I found a local dressmaker who could do it for just under R2000 and made the appointment. Initial dress fittings were approached with anxiety, but after I realised I was in capable hands, I relaxed and looked forward to the day I could wear it down the red carpet.
And it was beautiful. I was so pleased with it that I thought my dressmaker had done a better job than the original she was copying from.
On the day, I had already sorted out my nails and all that was left to do was my hair. I went along to my sometimes trustworthy hairdresser and told her what I wanted, thinking she would do a similar style to the last dance two years before. No, she had a better idea. When she paused from the prodding and pinning, I looked up and was shocked to see I had been transformed into a woman from the Victorian era. She had crafted a huge bun at the back of my head that looked like it was safe to nest a few pigeons. I kept my horror to myself, although I was crying on the inside. When I got into the car, I expressed my disgust to my mother. Fortunately, by the time we had driven the 5kms to my house the bun had begun unravelling. So we went back and she changed it into something more normal looking.
The moment arrived. Nick walked up the steps to my house with a bunch of red roses, looking spiffy. We posed for the photos and proceeded to pre-drinks and then the red carpet. The exhilaration I felt on the carpet was even greater than I had anticipated. I left my dress-loving, attention-loathing, lost teenage dreams on that carpet with no desire to pick them up again. I felt like Cinderella for the night. But when the night was over, the part I remember most clearly was partying with the previously stammering teenager beside me. And 33 months after that awkward date night in December 2012, I’m still with the guy I used for a ticket.
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